Into “The Shack” – Part One

the-shackWindblown Media gave me the privilege of reading The Shack when it first released. They also hosted a live conference call with William Young, the author, allowing him to answer our questions about what we read.

Some bestsellers aren’t worth the paper they are printed on, but this is not one of those books. I will give you a few peeks inside The Shack and explain why I recommend it–even with its flaws. This book is good on many levels. Let me begin the  discussion with a few clarifying points:

The Shack is not a theology textbook or a doctrinal statement. It is a story. Like Pilgrim’s Progress, Narnia, and other great works of the Christian faith, the driving power of this book comes through the fact it is told in a story format. You do not have to agree with every allegorical image and metaphor to get a lot out of this book.

The Shack is about grief and the heart of God. If you have been blessed to be spared from severe grief in your life thus far, this book may hold less meaning and power. It’s a gut-wrenching look at senseless evil and suffering in our fallen world. It asks the toughest questions and does not tie everything up in a nice little package at the end.

What it does–and it does it very well–is reveal the heart of God as manifested through the three persons of the Trinity.

And, due to the second point, The Shack is not for children. This book is for mature adults. The story is not overly graphic, but it is disturbing and tragic, while being necessary to the book’s purpose.

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16 thoughts on “Into “The Shack” – Part One

  1. I find it interesting that so many are opposed to God being represented in a female form. I particularly enjoyed that aspect of it- it opens up who God is- he so much transcends anything that we can imagine in our puny little minds. I don’t understand why people are so quick to call this sort of thing heresy…

    Granted, I speak from an extremely liberal viewpoint- I’ve traveled the full gamut of Christianity- from the strictest of the strict, to where I am now. I have got to say that I just don’t understand the big deal we humans make about such unimportant little issues. It’s rather amusing from where I stand, really…

    I appreciated the way The Shack opened up my view of God- I, too, had been raised to know him as an oppressive taskmaster, waiting to punish his disobedient followers. This is something my mind had been struggling with for a long time, and I had arrived at a similar viewpoint as the book by the time I read it- it resonated with everything I thought/felt.

    My faith is still in constant flux, but one thing I know for sure is that I will never follow the harsh, strict, legalistic “God” again. I have found him to be loving, gentle, mystical, and above all, righteous. (not righteous as the right wing would make him to be- but fair, and not locked in a teensy box.)

    I guess anything that’s said about “The Shack” will stir up controversy, though….makes things interesting. :)

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  2. Natalie it’s a story, all it is a story..people take it way too out of context…I’ll be honest i only read it up to page 88..i had to return it to the library because my 2 weeks were due, i am #3 on the list now to get it back, and this time i’ll finish it once i get it..or i might just buy it..What i can’t get over is how much controversy this book created and how much healing it has as well :)
    I loved it so far, i can’t wait to read all of it.
    I want to also read the reviews, but i might have to wait for that, i want to read the whole book myself..I know the Holy Spirit will discern for me what is Truth and what is just faults in the book..ahh now i seriously can’t wait to read it, after your good review..:)
    and i do trust your opinion :)

    Please also everyone keep me in prayer on August 19th…i will be in Canada then getting eye procedure, i will need lots of prayers that it will go smoothly, it’s on my left eye, because it has progression from keratokonus (sp?) and stigmatism, etc!!

    I am from the states, so i will be flying, please keep me in prayer dear Natalie!

    and thanks for the awesome review, i can’t wait until the next segment of the review :)
    sorry for the length here!

    Blessings & HUGS!

    In His Love, Jane

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  3. I read The Shack and was extremely blessed! It made me see God’s love and grace in a new way. I say this as one who was spiritually abused, dealt with so much legalism within the church, and constantly lived my life feeling never quite good enough for God. I went through counseling which didn’t help me near as much as this book! This book helped me so much. It’s helping me heal. The theology was NOT an issue, that wasn’t the main point for me. However, here is a link I found quite interesting: http://lifestream.org/blog/2008/03/04/is-the-shack-heresy/
    I think you can take a lot from a book and leave the bad or not so good parts. I was sooo blessed. I got a copy for my friend for her bday and just told her when I gave her the book, “look, it’s controversial among Christians, but it blessed me incredibly even though I don’t agree with it 100%.
    And this is coming from someone who isn’t some strong, mature Christian… I am learning. This book brought me so much healing!

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  4. I read it and loved it! It has not changed my theology, but has deeply affected my relationship with God. It’s helped me see him in a more personal way, rather than only as “Lord who dictates everything” which is not a wholesome view.

    Thank you for doing reviews on this book, Natalie. It’s controversial, unfortunately, but is very good and has helped many.

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  5. Okay, I haven’t read the book, but I have to say that coming from a Catholic background I’ve been in the habit of appreciating the good, beautiful, and true in everything. From what I’ve heard of “The Shack,” it’s theology isn’t going to run parallel to my Catholic theology, and for someone not secure in their faith that would be enough for me to recommend caution, BUT… I definitely don’t want to reject anything completely and utterly, even that which is true, because of the presence of error.

    Like I said, I haven’t read “The Shack,” but I have read the Greek philosophers and Christian theologians such as Schweitzer. Needless to say, I don’t agree with their every thought. But for the Truth they promote, they’re worth reading and worth contemplating. The Greeks I may disagree with on many points of theology; but they have a lot to say which is VERY applicable to my life and faith as a Christian. ‘Even’ the pagans are capable of speaking Truth.

    And if I can be very blunt in the attempt to get my point across… as a Catholic, my view of Protestant works is that they are going to contain something heretical or other. Even my beloved C.S. Lewis holds views which are at odds with my theology and which would be considered by my Church as heretical. But the vast majority of the time he speaks Truth, and I can benefit greatly from that. There’s no way I’m going to ignore him completely just because I don’t agree with him all the time.

    How this applies to “The Shack,” I don’t know. From what I’ve heard of it I would imagine that Joana’s recommendation of caution is appropriate, but I don’t like the complete spurning of it.

    One of the extraordinary things about being Christian is that you come to realise that God is a lot bigger than you think He is. ‘Heretics’ can distort Him, but they aren’t powerful enough to be rid of Him altogether. The Good, the True, and the Beautiful can be found in the most unlikely of places.

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  6. Just adding my “No” to the survey…I think it will probably stay that way. :) I do appreciate your review though, Natalie.

    And I second Ken’s recommendation of Challies review! Go read it, people!

    I did hear/read somewhere that the author of the Shack doesn’t agree with the substitutionary atonement view of the cross, but rather, that the crucifixion was allowed only to show God’s love through Christ’s willingness to die for us. Yikes! I don’t know if that comes across in the book or not though?

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  7. True, The Shack is narrative, it is a story, but it is a story based on a flawed theological system, perhaps even heretical. Everything we say and/or write has a theological background. Even Jesus used story to teach people theology. That is a natural mode of teaching. (its also what we do with children’s books) So to say it is not theological is ignorant.

    I have read it and do see people’s arguments for it being modalistic. But there are numerous other problems with it as well, including presenting God in the feminine, the experience of Wisdom (almost creates a fourth member of the trinity), decries the Bible as being incomplete or not sufficient, and many other issues.

    One of the best reviews I have seen on the book, which is extensive, is by Tim Challies located here:
    http://www.challies.com/archives/book-reviews/a-review-of-the-shack-download-it-here.php

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  8. Considering Eugene Peterson wrote The Message “Bible”, which is nothing more than a worldly paraphrase, it’s no wonder he loves the book The Shack so much. Just like I refuse to acknowledge The Message as The Word, I also have no desire to read yet another book that eludes to Christ, yet refuses to call Him by His name, for the sake of…novelty. Hurting people do not need paraphrases, or psychology, or even allegories. I know. The broken heart need only be mended by the Master Healer, Jesus Christ, and He alone. One does not need the empty words of human thought to restore their spirit, only The Holy Spirit. That being said, I would never go to a hurting person and offer them a quote from a book, I would show them the milk and meat of God’s Word. Trying to find the answer by any other mean is like having your Faith in more than just the finished work of Christ at the Cross, which Paul warned us of the consequences over and over.

    I say this not out of malice, or anger, only because this trend of accepting a watered down mystic allegory of “faith” is rampant in our Churches today. The people of God need to wake up and return to the Word, and The Word alone for their hearts needs.

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  9. I have not read the shack, so I can’t say what I thought about it! I know a few people who like it, and some who do not. I read reviews, and the common problem was the heresy of modalism. I’m not sure it can be compared with Narnia, because everyone treats that like pure fantasy. No one takes their theology from Narnia, but quite a few people might take their theology from The Shack. It is also disturbing that God is in feminine form. While there can usually be things gleaned from most books, this one seems to be impacting people in the wrong way (theologically), which worries me. I’m interested to read more of your review, though! :)

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  10. I read The Shack last summer and loved it. It is a way of looking at the love of God that I had not seen before. It is not theological and does not need to be. You don’t have to agree with all the allegory of the story but you can’t deny that it has truth to it. Christians struggle with the matter of evil and how to explain it. God is God and we are not, that is all the explaination we can give sometimes.

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